Archives for posts with tag: WWOOF

2014-05-31 12.46.51

Our latest WWOOFer, Claire, left us yesterday to go to her next hosts in Wales (via a trip to London). She has been absolutely brilliant and was our first non-EU WWOOFer, hailing from Indiana. As well as clearing bracken in the sunshine, she taught Iris to play the piano, planted seeds, mulched like a demon and helped us fix the gutter and water butt on the garage. This should mean no more flooded garage and plentiful water for the plants, especially those at the front of the house in pots.

She also did a lot of exploring in the local area and put us to shame in her eagerness to seek out ancient monuments. In fact, after bumping into our neighbour Phil on one trip, she helped him stop a team of civil engineers dumping a pile of rubble on a cup and ring mark stone that had mysteriously vanished from their maps of the area, thus saving a precious ancient site from destruction. She also had the good fortune to bump into the keyholder of Kirkandrews Kirk while passing and got a personal guided tour of the church and its history. We, on the other hand, haven’t yet managed to pop in even on one of its regular public open days! Definitely got a few outings planned for our summer staycation.

We don’t have any more WWOOF visitors planned until the end of the month and instead are having lots of visits from family and friends. This means (gulp!) that we’ll have to keep on top of the garden ourselves. Hmm. Something tells me we’re not going to get much done this month.

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Check out the rubble-free wall and new flower bed.

Check out the rubble-free wall and new flower bed.

After a very hectic few weeks it’s high time I updated the blog with our progress. When you’re in the midst of work it can seem that nothing is being achieved, so it’s good to sit back and gather my thoughts about all the changes. I am typing this sat in my almost-decorated kitchen while our second WWOOFER enjoys a quiet evening off after an afternoon of constructing supports for the bird nets on our new veg beds. We signed up as WWOOF hosts last month and, with the help of two volunteers, since then we have:

  • Removed the eyesore rubble that has been sat outside the house since we excavated the inglenook
  • Created 5 new vegetable beds and one flower bed
  • Moved 6 barrow loads of snowdrops from our compost area to a new location on the north lawn so they can be admired from the kitchen window
  • Painted the bare plaster in the kitchen white
  • Carried out a survey of the land and made a topographical map of the terrain
  • Cleared most of the shrubs in the centre of the lawn
  • Hung folding chairs on the wall in the sun room
  • Gleaned and chopped enough firewood for us to not have ordered logs for nearly a month.

In other words – got cracking on a to-do list that would otherwise have taken us months. Here’s a picture of Vincent, our current WWOOFER, digging a bed in the sunshine on Saturday – spot the photographer.

Vincent digging

While all this has been happening we’ve been battered by wet and windy weather. Not much fun for us or our volunteers but the strong winds have provided free firewood from some of the trees and we have cut off some precarious dead limbs as a precaution.

On Friday we have a site visit from the Woodland Trust to discuss planting a woodland in the field, now that Jo and Phil’s Hebridean lambs have returned to their mums before going to market.

The other big change has been a personal one for me as, for the first time in more than 21 years, I am no longer in formal paid employment. I decided the financial cost of childcare and travel, and the emotional cost of being away from the family for days every week, was too great and have decided not to return to working as a subtitler after my maternity leave ends next month. This was a really hard decision as I did love my job and we do need a second income. So, until we win the lottery, I’m doing freelance writing work – mainly creating blog posts for companies overseas, which explains in part why I have not been updating my own blog! I’m working for a good friend, have completely flexible hours and the extra money has made a big difference to the family finances.

The final change in the last month has been upgrading the sash windows in the playroom, the south windows in the lounge and the kitchen. These were all rotting and the new windows are a big improvement – reducing draughts and greatly improving the outward appearance of the house. We’re hoping to overhaul some of the other windows ourselves and get more done by Ventrolla when we can afford to.

Finally, I have to wax lyrical about all the signs of spring bursting up around the house. We have more snowdrops than we know what to do with and, in the new bed by the kitchen door, we’ve planted some of the snowdrops, daffodils, cowslips (kindly donated by Janet) and the campanula Fiona brought us. I really can’t wait to get cracking on the garden and have been spending a ridiculous amount of time collecting ideas on Pinterest.

New flower bed

New flower bed

No updates for a while (in fact, this whole month- oops!) Not that that means nothing much has been happening, quite the opposite. We’ve been busy entertaining our first WWOOFers, who’ve been helping us move snowdrops, dig up shrubs and today gathering and chopping wood for the stoves. When the weather has been really bad (and we’ve been lucky in that regard given what’s been happening in the south of England) they’ve been busy indoors helping us to paint the kitchen and do more draught-proofing.

The latest big project has been getting the worst of our sash windows repaired/replaced. The front windows in the playroom and lounge were done first, followed by the rotten one in the new kitchen. They look a lot better and are much less draughty. Now they’re in we’re working on the surrounding architrave and woodwork, filling gaps with filler and caulk to help them keep the heat it in more effectively. We’ve also bought beading to install around the skirting board in the lounge. It’s all helping to make the house warmer and more efficient but it’s a long, slow process.

037

Now the house is in a slightly more ordered state and spring is creeping around the corner, our thoughts are turning more to the land. Having planted the orchard at the weekend, Matt today registered it with the new National Orchard Inventory and has also been inspired to book a place on a grafting course taking place locally in March. We’re hoping to take cuttings of the established but struggling apple trees in the garden and be shown how to graft them to create new trees to plant.

We’ve also been in touch with The Woodland Trust to get their help to create a woodland in the field. We’ve had a phone conversation and provided them with a site map and an outline of what we hope to achieve. The next step will probably be a site visit to discuss our options. If it goes well we’ll come up with a planting plan and the Trust will provide all the trees, stakes and protectors we need, shouldering 60% of the cost – we just have to plant them.

We finished this flurry of administrative activity by finally registering as WWOOF hosts. This brilliant charity brings together those working land in an organic and sustainable way with those who fancy trying it out or sharing their skills while travelling. The basic premise is that we provide bed and board in exchange for a few hours’ labour a day working alongside us. This will be pretty essential for planting the woodland and there are all sorts of jobs we could do with a helping hand on – fixing some of the stone walls, gleaning and chopping wood, preparing the vegetable patch…

It’s been a bit of a stop-start couple of weeks with work on the house. We have had a stuttering start to the kitchen installation which we are hoping to complete next week but what we have of the kitchen is lovely (see previous Island Life post) and it should only take a couple of days to install the remainder next week – if our DIY goes well!

But we have made much better progress in other areas. Our scaffolding has been taken down so our chimney stacks are all repointed and watertight, our cast iron gutters have been repaired and painted and our wooden fascia boards have been overhauled. If you ignore the masonry paintwork which we’ll do in the summer the outside of the house is looking lots better and, along with getting new external doors, it means we have another big item ticked off our pre-Christmas to-do list – specifically, Plunton is now watertight!

The other niggling job that was finished this week (this very lunchtime in fact) is reinstating the back staircase. For reasons lost in the mists of time the useful back stairs were partially removed by the last inhabitants – with half of them left hanging in mid-air and the remainder stored in the garage. I suspect this was due to using the former kitchen as a bedroom.

The joiners who replaced our doors came back to reinstate them for us so we now have a quick route from the connecting room (AKA laundry, tool storage and baby-changing room) to the utility kitchen.

Here’s a couple of before and after pictures.

before_stairs

after_stairs

Once we get round to overhauling the utitilty we’ll build storage into the gap under the stairs.

And, of course, we’ve also been attempting to keep going with all the many Christmas jobs. Arthur had his first nativity yesterday (spectacularly mis-cast as a wise man) and we are going to a panto at the High School t tonight. We’ve also managed to order a wreath for the front door and will probably be getting a Christmas tree next week once the kitchen is all done and dusted. Iris has been practising her Christmas songs around the house ready for her performance next week and then it’s the holidays. We’ve also had a couple of house visitors – Ellie brought Arthur’s friend Elijah this morning to update us on the appointment of a new head at Iris’s school and James Finlay popped in earlier in the week from Cream O Galloway and welcomed us to the neighbourhood with a tub of ice cream. We also popped into Colt Cottage to talk smallholding with Jo and resident WWOOFer Anna. Christmas gift to each other will, I think, be signing up as WWOOF hosts.